Who can predict weather?

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

My Goodness, I have really messed up this year! I NEVER prune back plants in the fall or early winter so I have all that to do in the spring when I am so busy with weed control (pulling them by hand), mulching and transplanting vegetables in the greenhouse. SO, this year I decided (why, I do not know) that I would get everything cut back earlier and would eliminate that spring stress. Did I know we would have summer weather in December? Of course not, but I did know warm days in winter often happen around Christmas and have spent numerous years telling gardeners not to cut perennials back in the fall.

Above: Banana trees dying back for a second time. Below: Crinum Lilies after being cut back too early. Special photo

So, my Cannas, bananas, gingers, Crinums and numerous other treasures that were cut back after the first freeze, came back like it was summer in December. Boy, do they look sad now! The burgeoning buds on the hydrangeas are frozen - we’ll probably endure a repeat of last year’s sorry bloom. That was not my fault! I did not do anything to them. Well, they say that confession is good for the soul, so I know that one thing in my garden will be thriving - my soul. Just wanted to let those gardeners who ask questions too late know that those of us who should and do know better, do the same dumb things.

Now, on to good news; I really feel sorry for those of you who do not plan a winter landscape with the fragrance of Daphne odora, Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet), Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ (bronze Witch hazel) and Lonicera fragrantissima (Box Honeysuckle). These are in bloom now and are giving my garden such sweetness. I just planted a ‘Fragrant Pink’ Camellia. I had that in my last garden for many years and am just getting around to putting it in my garden here on the farm. Fragrance is such an important facet of garden design and pleasure. Make sure that you plan to enjoy it in every season.

It is time to start planting pepper seed indoors for your vegetable garden. Pepper seed are so slow to germinate that I start them early. I plant the tomato seed about 6 weeks before it is time to plant the transplants into the garden. Since I usually set May 1 for that activity, I will plant my tomato seed indoors about the middle of March. Seedlings need plenty of light. If you have a basement or room in your house for a lighting set-up with fluorescent bulbs, that is an ideal situation for growing transplants. The seeds really germinate well when placed on a heating pad. These can be purchased online from many seed companies or horticultural supply sources.

By the way, I have many old plant and seed catalogs that I hate to just recycle. If you know of a school or pre-school that could use them in science or art programs, I will deliver them. I also have National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon and Gardening Magazines that need a home. Just let me know. This hoarder is clearing out for the new year.